May 18, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. -- The third-seeded Tennessee Volunteers are back in familiar territory by reaching the round of 16 at the NCAA Tennis Championships for the fourth season in a row.
Their opponent on Thursday, California, is a much less familiar sight.
The Vols (23-4) take on 14th-seeded California at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium in the first match Thursday at 9 a.m. Pacific (noon Eastern). The two schools have not faced each other since 1992.
For news and notes on Thursday's matchup:
For Match Coverage
A live blog of the Vols' action throughout the team and individual tournaments will be available at UTSports.com. Live scoring and streaming video can be found on Stanford's website here: http://www.streamingtennis.com/Cardinal/livescoreboard1.html
At the Top of the Lineup
As NCAA finalists in 2010, the Vols are returning nearly the same lineup to the final tournament site this time around. Five of six singles starters are back, including senior John-Patrick Smith and Rhyne Williams, both of whom have been ranked No. 1 this season. They are followed in the lineup by Tennys Sandgren, who has gone 21-1 on court 3.
Smith and senior Boris Conkic are in their first season of playing together in doubles, but they have been every bit a success at the top of the lineup and have been ranked No. 1 nationally for the last two months.
How We Got Here (and Other Deep Questions)
The Vols reached the round of 16 by shutting out Radford and Virginia Tech by 4-0 scores in Knoxville last weekend. The senior class of Smith, Conkic and Matteo Fago wrapped up their home careers by leading the Vols to a 55-2 record in team matches.
Return to the Round of 16
The Vols have appeared in the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships for four consecutive seasons now, and it comes as no surprise perhaps that the Vols have finished each of those seasons ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Last year, the Vols entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed and played their way to the title match, falling to defending champion Southern California 4-2. The Trojans enter this year's tournament as the No. 2 seed.
We Meet Again (and Again)
Tennessee has faced 8 of the 15 remaining teams in the tournament: Virginia, Baylor, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA and Illinois. The Vols have faced them a total of 11 times, going 8-3 in such matches.
The Vols have played three teams twice this year: Georgia, Florida and Duke. If Tennessee wins its round of 16 match, it will mean a third matchup with either Duke or Georgia.
California, the 14 seed, advanced to the final site by defeating Fresno State 4-3 in the round of 32. The team has three ranked players: No. 20 Pedro Zerbini; No. 64 and former SEC Freshman of the Year at Florida, Carlos Cueto; and No. 96 Nick Andrews. Those three play positions 1-3 respectively.
California has one ranked doubles pairing: Andrews and Christoffer Konigsfeldt are ranked 23rd nationally and play on court 1.
Finals Times Three
The Vols have reached the finals of the last three national tournaments: the 2010 ITA National Team Indoors, the 2010 NCAA Championships and the 2011 ITA National Team Indoors.
For the Results:
2010 ITA Indoors: Lost to Virginia, 4-1
2010 NCAAs: Lost to Southern California, 4-2
2011 ITA Indoors: Lost to Virginia, 4-0
Looking at NCAA Records
In his five years at Tennessee, head coach Sam Winterbotham has compiled a 12-4 record in NCAA Tournament matches. At the final site -- which includes the round of 16 and up -- he has a 3-3 record.
The Vols are 7-8 all-time in the round of 16.
Back in California
Although Stanford last hosted the tournament in 2006, the Vols have not qualified for an NCAA Championship site in the state of California since 1990.
That year, the tournament was played in Indian Wells, and the Vols were the top seed reached the title match for the first time in program history, eventually falling to Stanford 5-2.
The All-Tournament Team
The Vols are returning three members of the 2010 NCAA Championships All-Tournament Team: Rhyne Williams for No. 3 singles, and Matteo Fago and Edward Jones for No. 3 doubles. Both went 4-0 in their respective positions at the final site.
Williams, after picking up a win in the opening weekend, is 6-0 in NCAA singles matches. As a team, Fago and Jones are 6-0.
Tennessee has three players in their lineup with college degrees heading into the final stretch of their UT careers. Fago and Smith earned their degrees in economics, and Conkic graduated with a sport management degree.
History in the Making
Because Smith is seeded in both the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments, he has met the All-America qualifications in both categories. Not only will he become Tennessee's first four-time ITA All-America, but he will also earn the recognition as being just the second player in the history of college tennis to be named a four-time singles and doubles All-America.
Only Rick Leach, who lettered for Southern California from 1984-87, was named a singles and doubles All-America all four years of his career. He later went on to be the world No. 1 in doubles.
Entering the final event of his career, Smith still has some records to chase. He has 149 career singles wins, putting him just one away from the 150-win milestone. The senior from Townsville, Australia, ranks second on UT's singles wins list, trailing just Byron Talbot, who won 161 times from 1985-88.
Smith is the Vols' career leader with 144 doubles wins. He has 293 combined singles and doubles wins, which is also a school record.
Sandgren and Williams have picked up steam in doubles as the season has progressed. They enter Thursday with a seven-match winning streak at the No. 2 position and have an 19-4 record.
Conkic and Smith, the nation's top-ranked duo, had their 17-match winning streak snapped in the regular-season finale but have won their last four to improve to 25-2 this spring.